Social cleavage is a concept used in voting analysis and is the division of voters into voting blocs. Cleavage separates the voters into advocates and adversaries on a certain issue. If parties are on a horizontal line for a certain issue, cleavage is the vertical line that divides the parties in supporters and opponents.
To varying degrees, social class, gender, age, race and religion have all been found to affect voting in Western democracies. The underlying mechanism for this relationship--i.e. that differences in social position are associated with different concerns, that in turn encourage support for parties that represent these concerns-is assumed to be mediated by social and political attitudes
Examining the major regions of Britain, Canada and the USA, we find considerable national and regional diversity in the nature of social cleavages. For example, social class and race had widely different effects across societies, but within societies their effects on attitudes and on voting were very similar. However, despite that, age and religion had a similar effect on attitudes across societies; the effects on voting varied considerably.
Translation of preexisting cleavages depends on which parties survive the early rounds of electoral competition. In fact, depending on which parties survive, the axis of political conflict can shift by 90 degrees. This implies that party systems in new democracies should be seen as important founding moments, during which political actors determine the long-term axes of political conflict.
Once a party system freezes, the politicization of a new social cleavage is difficult. Indeed, it is possible that a new social cleavage will remain politically dormant. In the context of Eastern Europe, this result suggests that political salience of class conflict is likely to be low because competitive elections and political parties predate the entrenchment of property-owning classes.
Lipset and Rokkan suggest that there are three specific connotations to the term cleavage. First, a cleavage involves a social division that separates people along at least one key social characteristic such as occupation, status, religion or ethnicity. Second, groups involved in a cleavage must be conscious of their collective identity and be willing to act on that basis. Third, a cleavage must have an organizational component that gives formal institutional expression to the interests of those on one side of the division.
Ethnic cleavages have significantly influenced electoral volatility in Latin America, but not in the way that theories of social cleavages and electoral volatility would predict. The failure of the traditional political parties in Latin American to represent the indigenous population adequately has led indigenous people gradually to shift their votes away from these parties, resulting in high levels of electoral volatility in indigenous areas.
That we find significant regional differences within countries suggests the importance of using region, rather than country, as the unit of analysis. These findings also underline the importance of paying close attention to political context when assessing the effects of social groups on voting.
Our results do not support claims about the declining magnitude of social cleavages. The race cleavage has increased considerably since 1960, and the gender cleavage more modestly during this period, while the class cleavage has remained stable, and the religion cleavage has declined slightly.
The authors argue that rebel leaders are thwarted in their mobilization efforts in highly crosscutting societies due to a lower probability of potential combatants identifying with nationalist goals, decreased ability to exert social control, and diminished in-group communication. Civil war onset is an average of nearly twelve times less probable in societies where ethnicity is crosscut by socioeconomic class, geographic region, and religion.
As a result of various political and non-political developments, the socio-culturally anchored and well structured character of European party systems has come under strain. This article assesses the overall social embeddedness of modern party politics and identifies newly emerging conflict-lines. It draws attention to phenomena that do not fit into the trend of dealignment, and discusses the relationship between group-based politics and democratic representation.